It often looks the same — an overworked office clerk or stay-at-home mom (or both at once, if they’re married) get an invite to a lengthy free presentation of the perfect resort apartments offered at a fraction of their real market price. And that’s exactly when they risk getting themselves into a nightmare – the timeshare nightmare.
In its core, the timeshare concept is not bad. You reserve limited rights to a piece of real estate at a fraction of a cost, so you and your family could spend a vacation there – usually a certain period of time annually. The contract could stretch from several decades to life, sometimes with an option of passing the property onto the owner’s heirs.
But when potential buyers think they’re hunting for a timeshare bargain, it turns out they are the prey, being watched and manipulated, their every step matched against a sales pitch checklist, as described by Alec Baldwin’s character Blake in the 1992 Hollywood classic “Glengarry Glen Ross”:
“Attention…Do I have your attention? Interest…Are you interested? I know you are, because it's f**k or walk. You close or you hit the bricks. Decision… Have you made your decision for Christ? And Action!"
This “pressure sale” scenario is not new to hundreds of thousands of people who believed the timeshare gimmicks and fell prey to fast-talking sales representatives without calculating all the risks.
Here’s Amber Martinez speaking in a YouTube video about her ordeal with timeshares:
“We have not used our points. We have not been on a vacation through Wyndham. It’s been almost two months and we want out. Wyndham is clearly a scam. I don’t see how they can get away with intentionally telling these lies to people.”
Most buyers sober up only after unexpected bills — the obvious signs of timeshare ownership con’s — start piling up in their mailbox. First of all, timeshare contracts are hard to cancel. You’re basically stuck with it, sometimes for life. Selling the property on the second-hand market, if allowed, is not easy either – just look at thousands of such offers on Ebay, going at a small fraction of the original price. And lastly, the annual property maintenance costs can get sky high if natural disasters, like hurricanes and landslides, damage your beautiful beachfront cabana.
Dave Ramsey, one of America’s most influential radio personalities, told ABC News that timeshares are a crummy investment:
“They’re absolutely horrible. All you’re doing is prepaying your hotel bill for the next 20 years right now in advance. And those of us who know anything about money, know that you’d be better off to put that money in an investment and the investment would produce enough to pay your hotel bill”.
While timeshare offers are not 100% fraud, they certainly require consumers to pay attention to the fine print in their contract. So if you’re tired of booking hotels each time you travel and would prefer this form of collective ownership instead, don’t give in to sales pressure, think decades in advance, carefully calculate all fees and costs, — and maybe you’ll be among those lucky ones, who found timeshares to be a neutral, pleasant and even rewarding experience.